ATLANTA — Atlanta police are investigating after a woman attempted to burn down Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home.
Police said they were called to King’s birth home on Auburn Avenue near the King Center just after 5:45 p.m.
When they arrived, they found two off-duty New York Police Department officers who had been visiting the center, and had a suspect detained until they could arrive.
Police say two tourists from Utah who were in the area saw the woman pouring gasoline on the home and interrupted her.
“That action saved an important part of American history tonight,” Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum said.
Video from a witness shows a woman dressed in all black pouring gasoline on the windows and in the bushes of the home.
Police said they have arrested a 26-year-old woman and charged her with criminal attempt arson and criminal attempt interference with government property.
Atlanta Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry DeBerry said had the witnesses not intervened, the house could have been burned to the ground in moments.
“It could have been a matter of seconds before the house was engulfed in flames,” DeBerry said.
They say they are working with several district attorneys’ offices, the ATF and the FBI.
Because King’s home is federal property, the woman could face further federal charges.
The King Center released the following statement:
“Tonight, an unfortunate incident occurred at the birth home of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an individual attempted to set fire to this historic property. Fortunately, the attempt was unsuccessful, thanks to the brave intervention of good Samaritans and the quick response of law enforcement. We thank the Atlanta Police Department, Atlanta Fire Department, the National Parks Service, and Mayor Andre Dickens for leading the efforts to ensure the safety of our cherished national landmark and its adjacent neighbors. Our prayers are with the individual who allegedly committed this criminal act.”
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